Tamaisha Dilworth doesn’t have to get on to her 9-year-old son Travon for bouncing balls in the house anymore. In their previous home, a small apartment in Evansville, Travon had to stay quiet for neighbors. Now, as of March, Travon can freely play in the family’s new house, Habitat for Humanity of Evansville’s 500th home.
Founded in 1984, Habitat for Humanity of Evansville works to build affordable homes for low-income individuals and families. However, Executive Director Beth Folz is clear that Habitat is not a hand out. It is a hand up.
“I think the primary misunderstanding about Habitat is that we give homes away,” she says. “You say that to a homeowner and they get really offended, because they know how hard they worked to get that home.”
Applicants for a Habitat home must meet three criteria — a need for housing, an ability to pay a zero-percent-interest mortgage payment, and a willingness to partner with the organization. As part of the program, homeowners must complete more than 300 hours of sweat equity in building and work on homes. The first 50 hours must be completed on their own, and then family and friends can donate work hours up to 100 hours.
Habitat homeowners also must complete required classes, including a six-month money management course, and are offered voluntary classes on a range of topics from drywall repair to lawn maintenance. Dilworth says she completed every course available.
“It really is about preparing people for homeownership,” says Folz. “The house is the vehicle we use to fight poverty, and that preparation is really major in fighting poverty.”
After 35 years in the community, the goal now for the organization is to build 20 homes a year over the next five years to assist people who otherwise would fall through the cracks. Folz says many people have an income that is too high to receive government assistance but still don’t earn enough to meet life’s basic necessities. Those are the people Habitat seeks to help. For Dilworth, it is an opportunity for her three kids to have a home where they can run, play, and be a family.
“This is just a new journey in our lives,” says Dilworth. “I look at it like we really get to live now.”